The Khronos Group, the industry organization behind such 3D standards as OpenGL and WebGL, have announced today a new 3D Commerce Viewer Certificate Program. The program is aimed at delivering consistent display of virtual products across multiple platforms in the world of online and app-based e-commerce where 3D models with engaging interaction take the place of photographs of physical sample products alone.
Consistent Retail Experiences
3D Viewers are software engines that enable e-commerce shoppers to display and interact with 3D models of products under consideration. They are already common in many online retail stores and used by industry giants like IKEA. However, inconsistency in the display of models across 3D viewers has been a major source of frustration and lowers end-user adoption and trust by the consumer.
Key Takeaways: When consumers trust 3D models for their accuracy it is driving up purchases and lowering returns. This certification standard is built on the Khronos’ glTF 2.0 standard for 3D models.
The Viewer Certification Program enables 3D viewers across the industry to demonstrate they can accurately and consistently display 3D products. This is a critical next step in the industry and prepares the way for reliable 3D and AR-powered shopping across multiple platforms and devices.
Big brands are onboard with this program, including Amazon, Babylon.js, CGTrader, Emersya, Epic Games (Unreal Engine), Facebook (SparkAR), Google (model and scene viewers), Samsung (browser on Android), SketchFab, Unity, and UX3D (Gestaltor). All of these brands have begun certifying their viewers under this new program.
Prior to the adoption of this program, when artists and brands created digital assets of their products, they had no assurance that they would appear consistently on different platforms. A piece of furniture, for example, previously might have appeared differently across multiple uncertified viewers (see image above). Even with identical viewer settings, a chair might have looked very different in an e-commerce product listing versus a digital ad using a different viewer.
3D Commerce Working Group
The Khronos Group’s 3D Commerce Working Group has been striving to solve this and other problems slowing the growth of 3D in retail. The Working Group’s diverse membership includes in-house content creators at major brands like IKEA, Amazon and Wayfair; 3D ecosystem and platform developers like Google, Microsoft, Adobe, Facebook, Samsung and Autodesk; and hardware manufacturers like Sony, Intel, NVIDIA, and AMD. They recognize that the solution is to promote not one particular viewer, but to enable consistent performance across all of them.
“When artists spend time perfecting a model for use in one viewer, it is both frustrating and inefficient to have to go back and edit it to display properly in every different viewer. In order for us to create an ecosystem of shared assets, artists need a common target,” says Ashleigh Miller, 3D program manager for Amazon and co-chair for Khronos Group’s Viewer Certification Task Sub Group. “Developers need to be free to choose the right viewer for their application, but artists should also have an expectation that their work is going to look as it’s supposed to.”
“The moment an asset leaves the boundaries of a controlled first-party ecosystem – say from a View-In-Room experience on a known OS on a known set of devices, to running in a 3D product ad on an unfamiliar OS on an unfamiliar device – you have had little control over how it looks,” says Shrenik Sadalgi, 3D Commerce Working Group chair and director of R&D / Wayfair Next at Wayfair. “3D virtual products are beginning to accompany every product listing, together with the traditional 2D images. It’s imperative that we give content creators an assurance of viewing accuracy inside the 3D Commerce certified ecosystem, and enable consumers to experience a product in a consistent manner. With the 3D Commerce Viewer Certification Program, we’re one step closer to expanding the ubiquity of 3D virtual products and helping make 3D more pervasive as a medium.”
The Khronos 3D Commerce Viewer Certification Program is open to any organization that wishes to certify that their viewers are capable of accurately displaying 3D assets used in ecommerce. In order to become certified, vendors must demonstrate that a 3D asset will look the same in their viewer versus another certified viewer. Potential Certificants use a publicly available test package containing glTF assets to generate test images. The Khronos 3D Commerce Working Group reviews these images, using the Khronos glTF Sample Viewer as a baseline. Organizations sign a Certification Agreement and pay an annual Certification Program Fee ($1,500 for Khronos members, $2,500 for non-members) to make an unlimited number of submissions.
Successfully reviewed submissions and viewers will be added to a public Certification Registry. Certificants can use the 3D Commerce Certified trademark in association with their certified viewers. The Khronos Group is calling upon viewer and tool vendors across the 3D ecosystem to join the growing list of organizations in the pipeline to be certified.
“The more vendors that opt into viewer certification by Khronos, the more possibilities will open up for 3D assets,” says Leonard Daly, Viewer Certification Task Sub Group co-chair. “Brands and application developers will be able to adopt certified viewers with confidence, knowing that they’ll be able to bring in assets from a variety of different sources and have them perform as expected. We’ll be able to break out of this norm of having to custom-build everything, which will lower barriers to entry for all kinds of high-volume 3D use cases.”
Full details and submission resources can be found on the Khronos Viewer Certification website. To learn more about how Khronos is working to grow the 3D asset ecosystem, visit the 3D Commerce page on the Khronos Group website. Any organization can also join Khronos and participate in the 3D Commerce and 3D Formats working groups to shape the future of 3D on the web and beyond.
Khronos has received wide industry support for the new Viewer Certification standard. Companies like Autodesk, Epic, Unity, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Samsung and other industry giants are all behind the standard.
“For the artist experience, very little compares to the importance of being able to preserve design intent from authoring all the way to delivery and consumption by a customer,” said Brent Scannell, product owner at Autodesk and Khronos Group 3D Formats Working Group Chair. “It was challenging enough when the target was a specific game engine or a single platform, forcing out-of-product inspection and iteration. Today, with the range of engines, platforms, experiences, and devices that exist in our ecosystem, that challenge is more prevalent than ever. Autodesk is proud to collaborate with Khronos Group to provide 3D artists with the confidence that their designs will be preserved, regardless of the platform or device where a 3D asset is served, saving them a huge amount of time and energy.”
“The open metaverse we envision requires a consistent experience for brands and products, which is why we’re working to ensure that creators can use Unreal Engine to deliver dynamic and immersive apps that will accelerate a thriving digital economy.” says Nick Penwarden, vice president of engineering at Epic Games and member of the Khronos board.
“The ability to showcase virtual products with a high level of realism is essential for the entire shopping ecosystem. With Spark AR, Facebook is proud to be a platform for creators and our extended network of agencies, partners, and sellers globally,” says Alexey Medvedev, tech lead for Facebook’s Spark AR. “Part of our commitment to supporting high quality e-commerce applications is providing the tools and an AR platform to enable visual fidelity that renders consistently with customer expectations. This Khronos certification provides exactly this.”
“With the success and the growing number of use cases for 3D in commerce, it has become essential for brands and retailers to be able to offer a consistent 3D visualization of their products across experiences and platforms, from product development to advertisement and sales” said Aurélien Vaysset, CEO of Emersya. “As a comprehensive authoring platform and a pioneer of online 3D & AR product experiences for 10 years, it is logical for Emersya to get its in-house 3D viewer certified. We look forward to our continued collaboration within Khronos Group on creating the standards of the future.”
“Providing visual realism and fidelity is essential for the developers of 3D commerce experiences,” said David Catuhe creator of Babylon.js and Group Engineering Manager at Microsoft. “As 3D digital commerce experiences become more pervasive, it’s important that customers trust what they’re seeing and interacting with. This means developers need confidence in rendering digital objects with consistency across 3D viewers and renders. For Babylon.js, supporting certified, cross-ecosystem rendering is critical for allowing our community to continue relying on Babylon.js for rendering 3D scenes with the beauty, realism, and fidelity that they expect.”
Architosh Analysis and Commentary
The glTF format was designed for web distribution and is similar to JEPG or H.264 for images and video, respectively. Major 3D authoring platforms can and do support this format, which can not just deliver very accurate 3D models but models that can be animated. Certified Viewers will allow end-consumer points to engage with these models virtually trying on different colors, fabrics, materials in product configurator options in the viewers.
During the press event yesterday, it was noted that big retail brand Hugo Boss are using 3D to completely replace physical prototypes, which saves the company thousands of dollars and much time. It is also having a 94 percent conversion lift and lowering returns as customers are able to see more of a product in a 3D viewer than they can from images and video alone. This builds confidence in their purchases which lowers returns.
It is somewhat stunning that the giant retail industry can generate a young standard and get so much industry support out of the gate. It is interesting to compare this movement with the painfully slow progressing industry standards in the AEC (architecture, engineering, construction) industry. But the virtualization of the world will extend not just down to level of a dress shoe, but all the way up to the level of the Smart City, passing through Smart Buildings and intelligent virtual assets commonly known in AEC as “digital twins.”
This standard (glTF) and the certification of viewers spills over to the world of “digital twins” because industrial sales of furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) will ultimately overlap with this retail-oriented standard. There is little reason to believe that if this new standard takes off for the IKEA’s and Amazon’s of the world it wouldn’t also take off for the Anderson Windows of the world.
Another thing not mentioned in the press event is that Viewers can and will allow end-users to download the 3D files themselves which means they can be utilized in other software.